Thinking of Serving as a Trustee?

At Decker & Woods, P.C. The Golden Rule Law Group®, we offer will and trust administration services for those who want to accept the role of trustee but need assistance with the process. There are many duties and responsibilities that go along with assuming the role of trustee, including the risk of incurring personal liability. Besides other things, there are statutory notice requirements that must be met, payment of creditors and expenses, income and estate tax issues, and beneficiary distributions.

It is important to understand that, as trustee, you will not personally own the trust assets. A trustee has a duty to safeguard trust assets for both the current beneficiaries and secondary beneficiaries. Secondary beneficiaries are those devisees who will receive assets after the current beneficiaries die. Trustees are entitled to reasonable compensation for their service and can hire professionals, such as probate and estate lawyers and tax professionals, to assist them with their duties under the trust.

A trustee has significant fiduciary duties and you will be held to a very high standard of care in administering the trust if you accept the appointment. A trustee also risks possible exposure to personal liability. The duties of a trustee are many and we’ve listed some of them below. If you serve as trustee, you must:

  • Read the trust document carefully, both when you first become the trustee and any time after that point should you have questions about your duties.
  • Follow the directions set forth in the trust document.
  • Keep all trust bank accounts and investments separate and avoid mixing trust assets with your own.
  • If applicable, invest trust assets in a prudent manner that is calculated to result in reasonable growth and/or return with minimum risk, avoiding risky or speculative investments.
  • Maintain clear and accurate records of the trust administration.
  • Account to the trust beneficiaries as provided by law and in the trust.
  • File tax returns and pay any taxes that are due.
  • Treat all beneficiaries the same and avoid favoring one over another unless the trust authorizes you to do so.
  • Avoid using the trust assets for your own benefit, unless the trust authorizes you, as the trustee, to do so.

There are other responsibilities and duties that fall to the trustee. If you have agreed to act as a trustee, our attorneys can guide you through the administration process. Our services are tailored to the level of assistance you need as a trustee. A trust administration case can be complex and time-consuming. We have the tools to make it as easy as possible for you and can provide solutions you can understand.

Are You a Trust Beneficiary?

Trust beneficiaries are the persons and/or organizations named in the trust to receive the trust assets after the grantor dies. Trust beneficiaries have certain rights, the scope of which depend on the trust and the type of beneficiary you are. Beneficiaries have a right to make sure the trustee is acting properly and that he or she is properly carrying out the terms of the trust.

To the extent provided for in the trust, beneficiaries have the right to:

  • Receive distributions provided for in the trust
  • Be informed about the administration of the trust and of the material facts necessary to protect their interests
  • Receive an annual accounting from the trustee or waive an accounting
  • Receive a final accounting prior to distribution
  • Ask the court to remove a trustee they believe is not acting in their best interests
  • Ask the court to end the trust, in some instances, if the purpose of the trust has been fulfilled or is impossible and all current and remainder beneficiaries agree

If you are a beneficiary of a will and trust, we can help ensure your rights are protected. Contact our attorneys today to learn more!

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